By Jaclyn Lewinthal
This article appeared in the November/December 2016 edition of Public Citizen News.
Born in Ankara, Turkey, Burcu Kiliç is the research director for Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, whose primary goal is to save lives by promoting access to affordable medicine and fostering generic competition to brand-name medicines. The group also was a key player in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and helped make drug prices a sticking point in the final deal. Kiliç received her law degree from Ankara University in Turkey and then she completed two master’s degrees in intellectual property law, and law and information technology at the University of London and Stockholm University, respectively. After completing those degrees, she went on to earn a Ph.D. at Queen Mary, University of London as a School of Law Fellow. In addition to her current work at Public Citizen, Kiliç is a SARChI Research Fellow at Institute for Economic Research on Innovation at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa.
Kiliç has traveled extensively and wrote “Boosting Pharmaceutical Innovation in the Post-TRIPS Era: Real Life Lessons for the Developing World,” a book that explains the role of intellectual property strategies in pharmaceutical innovation.
-Compiled by Jaclyn Lewinthal
Q: You recently celebrated your fifth anniversary with Public Citizen. Please, tell us what you do for Public Citizen and how has your work evolved over the past five years?
A: I work with international governments, organizations and civil societies, and provide policy advice to promote generic competition and lower drug costs. I also work to refine policies regarding intellectual property and innovation with governments and civil society groups across the globe. I research and write about intellectual property law and innovation, mostly with an international focus. I work with academics to inform them about what is going on in the field of medicine, health, intellectual property law and innovation. My work has evolved over the past five years. At first, I started off as a researcher, researching law and policies relating to international patent law and pharmaceuticals, but soon after my first year, I started to cover access to innovation, information and knowledge, as well as privacy and data protection
Q: How many countries have you visited?
A: I’ve personally travelled to more than 50 countries, but for this job, I’ve visited around 20 to 25 countries in the past five years.
Q: What was the most interesting country you have visited?
A: I love Vietnam. I have traveled to Vietnam 10 times. It’s a special country because each time I go, the country changes drastically. Vietnam is a developing open-market economy and is becoming more westernized. However, I am not sure if the westernization of Vietnam will benefit the Vietnamese people. It all depends on how you define “developing.” Also, the people, culture and food make this country unique from other Asian countries.
Q: Why do you work for Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program?
A: Five years ago, I was in academia. I worked in London and was not planning on living in the U.S., but when I saw this job, I knew I wanted to accept the offer. It would allow me to communicate with other countries and their civil societies. The stars aligned for me; it was the right job, right place, right timing, and I was ready for the next step.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
A: Some challenges include frequent travel and attendant jet-leg (due to differences in time zones). Time does not stop when I am traveling, which can make my job exhausting. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a work-life balance. But challenges make my job interesting.
Q: Can you tell us about your book?
A: My book was my Ph.D. dissertation. My book heavily focuses on how patent strategies play a vital role within pharmaceutical innovation in the developing world. I explain why global patent protections for pharmaceutical pose a massive dilemma for local industries, which consequentially impacts drug consumers in developing countries. Also, I offer policy advice about intellectual property and innovation strategies.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working for Public Citizen?
A: This job allows me to do what I love—helping people get access to affordable medicine. It brings me great pleasure to talk to government officials and protect patients and the public interest.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I love photography—in particular, “old school” photography. I have a camera from the 1950s and I bring it to almost every country I visit. I also enjoy exercising, in particular, running and swimming, as well as catching up with friends.